Jake Miller is one of the politest people I’ve ever met. After nearly every question or comment about his music, he smiles and says “thank you.” His dad was out on the road with him, and though Miller’s lived in Los Angeles for several years, he still feels connected to his hometown in Florida. On stage at the House of Independents in Asbury Park, he’ll introduce “Palm Blvd” by saying that the three most important things in his life are “my mom, my dad, and my sister,” and telling the crowd how lucky he was to have a great childhood in Florida. When offered a shot of Jameson mid-set, he takes it, but only the one: he was offered more shots later on and gave them to his band.
Miller talked to Substream while in the middle of his Wait For You Tour, and when asked about the tour, immediately said it had been going “amazing so far, and we’re not even halfway through.” He was glad to be traveling with friends and eating well and working out were keeping him in shape, mentally and physically. It’s his first tour since the release of the BASED ON A TRUE STORY. EP in March, and “the best part is getting to play all the new stuff that I just released and seeing how it connects with everybody.”
Having to sit on the songs for so long before the EP was released was “crazy… you’re the only person that hears them for months and months, and then within a minute they come out, and everybody across the world is listening.” Miller mentions that he reads all his messages and all of his comments because he loves to see how it connects with people. It all comes to life at the shows: “And so seeing how… it connects with people, and watching people dance and cry – that’s the feeling that I go for when I sit down and write music, so it’s definitely been an amazing journey with this EP – and it just started.”
Following a prior contract with a major label, Miller released EPs 2:00am in LA and Silver Lining as an independent artist before signing to Sony’s RED MUSIC. After being contacted by several different labels during his time as an independent artist, he met up with the team at Sony RED following a show in New York and fell in love with them. He quickly felt close to everyone at the label and knew that they could trust each other to work together to make the best music possible. The record deal with RED, he says, is “perfect”: “they’re giving me all the freedom that I want, and they trust me. At this point, I’m not doing it all by myself, I definitely have some people helping me, and people coming in and producing beats for me or helping me write, which is important, but I have all the creative freedom. Nobody’s behind me telling me what to do or what to write about.”
A Jake Miller show offers many chances to dance, but songs like “Think About Us” and “Drinkin About You” are sentimental, too. BASED ON A TRUE STORY. is both his most emotional and most visual effort yet; “SKINNYDIP,” “NIKES,” and “LONDON LIGHTS” paint clear, moving pictures, and this is perhaps best heard on “WHAT IF YOU FELL IN LOVE,” where he imagines what will happen – and how it will hurt – if the one who got away finally got away for good. Reflecting on how his songwriting has changed over the years, he says “it’s just become more important to me over time to be completely honest. That’s the kind of writing that I like the most – painting pictures and writing stories.” Growing up, he’d turn poems and essays he wrote in English class into songs and began rapping stories about anti-bullying situations and suicide awareness. It’s no surprise that Miller cites John Mayer as a favorite artist (he even has a John Mayer tattoo): Mayer, like Miller, writes songs that tell stories and powerfully connect with people.
Back in January, Miller shared an acoustic video for “WAIT FOR YOU”; here, he sits at a piano and is joined by a backing choir. At that time he filmed the video, “WHAT IF YOU FELL IN LOVE” was done, but he was struck by inspiration and asked the choir to join in on it. Like “WAIT FOR YOU,” the verses on “WHAT IF YOU FELL IN LOVE” are sad and slow, but the chorus is more lively with some 808s. “I don’t really get the chills from my own music very often,” he shares, “but sometimes I’ll listen to that, and I’ll really feel it, and that’s just a sign that I did my job on that song. It comes from a very real place – it’s about always thinking that you have somebody, but then realizing you might not have them forever.”
The Wait For You Tour hit Asbury Park on a rainy Friday in late April, but the weather didn’t stop dedicated Jake Miller fans – who call themselves the “Millertary” – from showing up several hours early to wait in line. Many of these fans have been coming to his shows for years; at his concert in Philadelphia the night prior, “I said it’s crazy how some of you guys in the crowd, we have meet-and-greet pictures when I didn’t have facial hair yet. I truly have grown up with some of these kids, and they’re not even kids anymore.” There aren’t many young kids in the crowd anymore, but he’s not concerned with how old anyone is. Growing up alongside his fans and getting to know their faces and names has created a unique connection. “A lot of these fans have been to so many shows that I feel like they’re my friends now,” he says. “I know them by name. It’s a really cool, special bond that we have, and I think it’s unique to any other artist and their fanbase, just because we’ve been through so much together, so many ups and downs, and they’re still here, and we’re grinding together, so it feels like our fight that we’re fighting together, and so – it feels more special.”
He’s learned, over the years, that having a great team around him is crucial. That’s not just the record label; it extends to “the people you surround yourself with on a daily basis – your friends, your manager, your band, the people that are gonna boost you up and take your ideas and run with them and not shoot them down.” It’s a constant grind, but when asked if he’s ever tempted to take a day off or take a break, he responds, “Never. I never get that, no. To me, going to the gym or running around a field or eating well – it’s all little things that [are] making me better and better as a person and healthier.” He wants to get better at piano and guitar, and wants to up his chops as a producer; he also wants to learn to play the saxophone. He’ll cite winning a Grammy and having a song that goes platinum (“I would really like a plaque on my wall and be able to send one to everybody that’s believing in me all these years”) as goals, but the biggest goal is “to keep perfecting my craft and become the best artist I can be.”
On the Wait For You Tour, Miller is performing all six songs from BASED ON A TRUE STORY., as well as fan favorites dating back to 2012. He and his band are “just getting better and better,” and they “feel more and more like a unit every time we’re on stage.” It’s important to him that every fan that attends feels special and like they’re “they’re in a safe environment and a place where they can kinda escape the real world for a little bit. That’s what my music is really all about; that’s what the show is all about.” Before playing “Dazed and Confused” and “Collide,” he’ll give a special shout-out to his “OG fans” that found him when he was a senior in high school. However, whether they’ve been there since “A Million Lives” or just joined the Millertary with this latest EP, Miller is thankful for every person that’s listening. “It’s been a long journey,” he shares, “it’s been a lot of fun, and we’re just getting started.”
Jake Miller is on tour now with Logan Henderson; visit www.JakeMiller.com/tour for tickets. BASED ON A TRUE STORY. is out now on all major providers here, and also available on vinyl from Urban Outfitters.